Thank You, Dr. Joe

Dr. Joseph E. “Joe” Johnson loved the University of Tennessee, and the UT System president emeritus had a special bond with UT Martin and West Tennessee. He died Sept. 29, 2023, in Knoxville and left a leadership legacy that will impact the university for generations. 

Johnson worked more than 50 years for UT, and in that time often traveled west to attend UT Martin commencements, meetings, fundraising events, sports and historic gatherings such as the June 1995 dedication of the expanded Paul Meek Library (next page, top left). He was always ready and willing to support UT Martin alumni, students, faculty and staff. 

Johnson is likely best remembered among the UT Martin faithful for his significant role bringing a four-year engineering program to Martin, which was approved in July 1996 by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. The Joseph E. Johnson Engineering and Physical Sciences Building was officially named for him in June 1999 (next page, bottom left) and stands as a tribute to his unwavering advocacy for the program. 

When Johnson retired in 1999 from the UT presidency, he chose to spend his final day on the job at UT Martin. “The Martin campus and the Martin area have a special place in my heart,” he was quoted as saying in a university story. He described West Tennessee people as “some of the best in the world.” 

Thank you, Dr. Johnson, for your part in helping make UT Martin the special place it is. 

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